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The return of the Naxal to Andhra

Posted by Admin on November 3, 2009

naxalvillagestory.jpgThe Sun sets in an uneasy calm over the river Godavari on the northern border of Andhra Pradesh. On one side, just a kilometre away, is Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. On the other side, lies Chattisgarh. This is Naxal turf. Strong, forbidding, inescapable. Night falls in eerie silence. It is in this darkness that Naxalism is sneaking back into Andhra Pradesh.

When the sun rises, we meet Tirupati. For three weeks now, he has been on the run. Once a Naxal, now the sarpanch of Palimella village in Karimnagar district, Tirupati has no choice but to hide. He has found out he’s on the Naxals’ hitlist.

“They left a poster stating that two of my associates are police informers and warned me if I did not mend my ways, they will kill me,” he says.

Beyond Palimella is Sarvaipet village. It’s small villages like this that hold the answers to why Naxalism thrives. No medical facilities here for a population of 1200 people; the nearest doctor can be found at a clinic 20 kilometres away. There is no road, and therefore no bus service.

On Diwali night, a platoon of 80 to 100 Naxals came here, to Ganapathi’s home, to warn him not to be a police informer. He wasn’t at home, so the Naxals left with his relative, Bheem. He won’t speak to us. A villager, Krishnaiah, explains, “Imagine what they would have done if he had not escaped.”

Krishnaiah’s daughter is upset that he has spoken to us. The Naxals are never far. “Action teams of 3 to 4 Naxals each are moving around in the forest area,” states B Srinivas Reddy, Sub-Inspector, Koyyur. One of the election promises the Congress made in 2004 was to hold peace talks with the Naxal groups. Y S Rajasekhara Reddy set the ball rolling almost immediately after he took over as Chief Minister. Within six months, the Naxals left their hideouts inside the Nallamalla forests to travel to Hyderabad for talks with him. Senior Naxals handing over their weapons to their subordinates was the photo-op of the year.

But after that, the Naxals used the period of the ceasefire for massive fund-raising and recruitment. The police, which was initially upset with the political decision for the ceasefire, realized it needed a new strategy. So as senior officers later admitted, their men concentrated on infiltrating Naxal groups, serving as moles.

Eventually, the peace talks failed, and the Naxals returned to the forests. From December 2004, bloody encounters followed for nearly eight months. In August 2005, Naxals killed Narsi Reddy, a sitting Congress MLA from Mahbubnagar district at an Independence Day function. The YSR government
banned Naxals immediately and ordered the police to start a giant offensive.

Their moles gave the police crucial intelligence against the Naxals. Also, YSR’s focus on strong rural development meant that young men and women were less interested than earlier in Naxal ideology. But it was the Greyhounds, Andhra’s anti-Naxal commando force, that really routed the Naxals, forcing them to admit that they couldn’t compete.

There has been a lull in Naxal violence in Andhra Pradesh, save some parts of the Andhra-Orissa border, for the last three years. But emboldened by their successes in Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, Naxals are once again crossing the Godavari into parts of north Andhra Pradesh. NDTV

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